7th Sunday after Pentecost – July 31, 2011
Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7, 16; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21
If I say something like, “I’m broke” or “I can’t afford that” it typically means that if I scrounge in the cupholders and under the floor mats of my car I can find change to buy a cup of coffee, but no donut. And, I am anxiously awaiting payday because if the banking fees are taken out of my account, the monthly Pre-Authorized Remittance contribution to St James will put me into overdraft … and I expect that the next time I use my credit card it will melt, but the real kicker is that I just remembered the car insurance is due tomorrow. Otherwise, I’m in good shape financially.
On the other hand, a close friend of mine is always broke and is prone to panic attacks about her economic viability. This usually means that she has only the $100 buffer in the secret section of her wallet and the bank balance in chequing is dangerously close to the limit where she will lose her free monthly account services, and maybe this month she won’t be able to contribute to the vacation account as much as she planned to, and income from the markets is down. Things are tight; it’s not looking very good you know.
It all depends on the surrounding circumstances, and the people involved…perception is everything.
Today’s account from the life of Jesus also includes perceptions about resources and how that makes a difference in the context of responding to need.
Faced with thousands of people who would soon need fed, the disciples pragmatically suggested that Jesus tell the people to go and find some food.
His response: “You feed them.” …
To which they say, “We’re broke – we only have ….
As followers of Jesus – the 21st Century version of those disciples in this story – we too are called to respond directly to the needs of people. And just like those early followers, we are often daunted by the enormity of the need compared to the resources we think we have.
But instead of a theological discussion on the worldview of abundance verses that of scarcity, the story unfolds in a series of actions:
- The disciples brought what they had to Jesus
- Jesus blessed what they had (some scholars believe the English translation of this has shortchanged our understanding – this was not a muttering of some magical ritual, but an act of thanksgiving and praise to God for the provision of all things.)
- The disciples distributed/shared what they had – and it was more than enough. (How it became more than enough is a mystery. Some believe it was purely a physical intervention by God – the loaves and fish multiplied; others believe that this demonstration of generosity fostered more generosity and everyone began to share. Maybe it was both or neither – but it was NOT the usual pattern, otherwise this story would not be recorded in all four Gospels.)
In this past couple of weeks we have been made very aware of the great need for food in Eastern Africa – and we are figuring out how to respond to that great humanitarian crisis. This week, people have been stopping in to the office to drop off donations through PWRDF, the Anglican relief and development agency responding such situations.
And what are the needs of our communities closer to home – where we have a less easily recognized protocol to respond effectively?
Some of those needs are practical, physical ones; others relate to our psychological or spiritual selves; and still others are communal in nature – how we relate and interact as a society (social justice issues come to mind).
Our Parish Council has begun the process of updating the vision for our parish, considering the questions, “What is God calling us to be and to do in our communities in the next 10 years?” “What is it that St James has to share with our neighbours?”
As we work to discern this vision and respond to it, the resulting concrete actions and ministries will require that we all participate with what we have. In the next few months and years we will be called upon to act as though every day was a day for serving up banquets of hope and love and real food in a world where people are hungry in body and spirit because of drought and despair and fear.
But how, we ask? The beginning of the answer is to bring who we are and what we have to God in thanksgiving. This is not ‘Let go and let God.’ This is active, co-participation with God for the sake of meeting real needs. The impact will be ‘more than we can ask or imagine’.